By Eberhard Janssen, Claas
Being an expat employed at the Gaomi site was a unique experience for me that I enjoy looking back on. Previously I'd spent a few years as a student in China, where, as well as adapting to the culture, I had the opportunity of learning Chinese.
From May 2014 to May 2016 I was back in the Far East, this time at Claas Jinyee. My time there as a student was good preparation for me. Back then I spent most of the time in Qingdao. So it was good for me that the Claas site in Gaomi wasn't far from Qingdao. Both cities have good train networks, which I used every day as a commuter. The railway station in Gaomi is only a short taxi ride from CJY (Claas Jinyee Agricultural Machinery (Shandong) Co. Ltd.), which lies roughly between Beijing and Shanghai in the coastal province of Shandong.
The plant is about half as big as the site in Harsewinkel and, besides local combine harvesters, it also produces maize pickers. The technology in the production plant is similar to that which we have at CSE. With the emphasis on quantity, production in China has increased steadily in recent years. This meant that many tasks came up in quality assurance that I found interesting. I worked very well with Ms. Fu, Head of Quality Assurance, and the rest of the team on the site, and was able to get a lot done.
From introducing a product audit, to the restructuring of 'testing' and the optimization of assembly, there was plenty to interest me. Q gates and a documentation system were introduced in assembly, on the basis of which regular fault management meetings were held. Q gates are fixed stations along the assembly line, where a worker checks the work according to a previously issued checklist and ensures that the assembly is correct. The difficult aspect of the work was in adapting the Claas organization's expertise and processes in such a way that they were also practicable for CJY.
China is a fast-paced country, which has been growing and continues to grow at a very rapid rate - something that is reflected in working life. Because everything changes so quickly, it‘s important to provide continuity and stability in the production process. It‘s essential to define and implement processes, introduce standardization and plan for the longer term. Suggestions for improvement are well received among Chinese co-workers and are met with a great deal of dedication and motivation.
Rich cultural diversity
Since China is as big as the whole of Europe, there's an incredible amount of cultural diversity. That can be seen clearly in the food. While the preference in the north is for savory food, in the south, around Shanghai, sweet dishes are popular; in Sichuan they like very spicy food, and in Shandong everything revolves around seafood. So China is not simply China. I've seldom seen so many stark contrasts in one country, not only in terms of culture, but also living standards.
Over the years I've seen a lot of the country and have travelled to many places, but I always found that the most beautiful place for me in the end was Qingdao, where I spent my days as a student. No doubt that's because the city has German roots and the old town exudes a homelike charm thanks to its German buildings - you can feel quite at home as a German expat even in the Far East. Also, the residents of Qingdao are extremely friendly towards Germans, so I've spent an evening or two in good company with a cold "Tsingtao" beer.
It wasn't just the work aspect, but all of the "trappings" as well that made it an extraordinary and valuable experience for me. I'm glad that I'm also able to forge a link with the Gaomi plant in my new position at CSE, and I look forward to working more with the motivated staff in China.